64 windows of Mysuru-Chennai Vande Bharat damaged in stone pelting in six months | Azad Times

2 weeks ago 21
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Azad Times News Desk.

A majority of the miscreants have been identified as minors in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and no motive has been identified.

The premium Vande Bharat Express between Mysuru and Chennai flagged off months ago by the Prime Minister has been repeatedly targeted by stone pelters. The Chennai division of the Southern Railways (SR) has had to replace a total of 64 windows damaged by miscreants since the train’s inauguration on November 11, 2022. Although stone pelting is a recurring offence faced by the railway, no other train operating under the SR has recorded such a high number of cases within a span of six and a half months.

Ananth Rupanagudi, Chief Project Manager in the SR Chennai division, said that seven windows were damaged by miscreants in seven separate instances within Tamil Nadu. “The others have been recorded beyond Jolarpet (Bengaluru division’s jurisdiction). More than 80% of the incidents have happened in areas that fall under the Bengaluru division’s jurisdiction,” Ananth added.

Kusuma, the Additional Divisional Railway Manager in Bengaluru, said that 26 windows had to be replaced because of stone pelting incidents within the Bengaluru jurisdiction. “Close to 10 of these instances happened between Ramanagara and Mandya while the rest took place between Malur and Cantonment,” Kusuma said.

The officials from both divisions agreed that such a high number of stone pelting instances hasn’t been recorded for any one particular train.

According to Rajaiah, the Assistant Security Commissioner of SR in Chennai, a total of 45 stone pelting incidents on all types of trains (local, express, fast trains, etc.) occurred in Tamil Nadu between January 1 and May 10 this year. However, no train within the state has suffered frequent hits as the Vande Bharat Express. “The Shatabdi Express, which travels on the same route, hasn’t seen these many stone pelting cases in all these years. Only two cases of stone pelting on the Shatabdi Express have been reported in Tamil Nadu since January 2023 against almost five or six on Vande Bharat,” Rajaiah said.

When asked for possible reasons behind this train being a target, Ananth said, “Vande Bharat has huge windows unlike the other trains. Maybe that is an explanation, but no overarching reason has been discovered yet by the Railway Protection Force (RPF).”

So far, the Tamil Nadu RPF has nabbed a minor for hurling stones at the train near Arakkonam, Chennai on May 6. Mohammed Usman, Arakkonam RPF inspector, told TNM that a 11-year-old boy had playfully hurled stones at the train. “We informed his parents and counselled him about the dangers of such acts and let him go,” he added.

Similarly, the Bengaluru division has also reported that a majority of miscreants identified by the police were minors between the ages of 10 and 18. Only one adult, a 36-year-old man named Abijit Agarwal, was arrested for hurling stones at the train on April 16. “He had mental health issues. We couldn’t identify a reason for his action,” an official told TNM.

A costly affair

Each window of the premium Vande Bharat Express costs Southern Railways Rs 12,000. Labour charges cost an additional Rs 8,000. On receiving complaints of stone pelting, engineers at either of the destinations inspect the damage, and if the damage is severe the concerned maintenance officials replace the window immediately. A total of Rs 12,80,000 has been spent so far by SR on replacing the 64 damaged windows.

However, for minor cracks, the engineers use stickers initially and replace the windows on Wednesdays (the train doesn’t operate on Wednesdays) at the shed in Basin Bridge, Chennai. The use of stickers raises the question of safety since a window patched up with stickers might shatter easily if it happens to be targeted by miscreants. To this concern, Ananth said, “Mostly we change them immediately. The engineers don’t take a chance with stickers since the safety of the passengers is our priority.”

In an attempt to reduce the number of such instances, both the divisions have stepped up patrolling alongside the areas where most cases have taken place. Additionally, since a large number of offenders have been identified as minors, SR intends to hold counselling sessions in June at schools, specifically those located near railway tracks.

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Azad Times.

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